Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Far Isles Session #56 - Fear Factor

Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar PrettyBird
Abdul el Abdul (Fighter 5)
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 3)

As the late afternoon sun began to dip low over the crater rim, the party tied ropes around some of the stone ruins so they could to lower themselves over the side of the hill to the temple entrance below. As the rest of the party descended, Rodrigo and Corvus elected to remain above to watch their backs. The party found themselves standing at the waters edge, with a pair of dugout canoes tied to rickety bamboo piers behind them, and two wide steps in front that led to a landing lined with pillars. Beyond this were a trio of narrow steps leading to another landing and the entrance itself. Shoved into cracks in the red marble of the landing were a series of bamboo poles topped with shrunken heads, skulls, and the odd unidentifiable jawbone. Climbing up to the second platform,  on either side of the steps there was a large stone foot, the remains of a statute that once straddled the stairs. An opening led from this platform into the side of the hill, and a bas-relief of a human holding a lighted brazier was carved in the cliff face to ether side. Abdul el Abdul went over to the left carving to size it up and noticed there were small openings in place of the eyes. Chaff shuffled over and sent Pretty Bird up to have a look. Inside was a very dusty and cobwebbed room, obviously not touched for a millennia. That seemed like a good place to check first, so the party formed up and marched into the darkness.

They did not get far before a pile of debris narrowed the tunnel to a single file squeeze. There was no obvious sign of a ceiling collapse, so they surmised the rubble must have been placed here deliberately. "It's a trap!" exclaimed Awg. Chaff shielded the light coin to let Jaz look ahead with her infravision. Far ahead, at the limits of sight, was a faint glow of fire. Close at hand, beyond the rubble, the elf could see a trio of figures lying in wait. With this new intelligence, the party formed their plan. Kwinsea cast a seasong to lull the three guards into slumber, while Chaff cast meld flesh in an (unsuccessful) attempt to bind them together. No matter; the heavily armored Jaz was ordered forward through the gap to take care of the dozing men. But as she passed the end of the rubble pile, a spear thrust out, glancing off her armor. It would seem they missed one guard, a mighty champion clad in bone armor. Abdul pushed forward to join Jaz in combat. The native warrior was tough, fighting the two even after being hit several times. He also landed a solid jab with his spear on Jaz, who immediately froze; paralyzed. At this point, one of the dozy guards awoke and joined the fray. Worried for the elf's life, Abdul pulled her out of combat, while Awg slapped on his/her demon mask, summoned the power of the new cutlass to levitate above the fight and opened up with laser fire with his/her pistol. This took out the newly awakened guard, while Chaff pushed forward to cast the instinct of fear on the champion. That caused the mighty warrior to turn and run down the tunnel away from the party.

The party paused briefly to dispatch the last two natives. When Jaz did not recover right away, she was left in Pretty Bird's care near the entrance as the rest of the party pushed on without delay. Once more they did not have to go far, bursting into a huge fire-lit chamber. The fire burned in the centre of the room, below an opening in the ceiling covered by a huge net. A balcony ran along the perimeter of the chamber, accessible by stairs on either side of the entrance. It was high enough that it was difficult to see what, if anything, was up there.  Clustered just beyond the fire was a line of native warriors, spears pointed menacingly at the party. Beyond them in one corner quivered the feared champion, while a cluster of woman cowered in the opposite corner. Retreating a little to stand in the entrance, Kwinsea tried speaking to the wariors. And surprisingly, they understood her mismatched native pidgin well enough to communicate. As Awg levitated menacingly and Chaff cast a sparkly cantrip on himself, the aquamancer alternately threatened them with 'mighty magics' and questioned who they were and what they were doing in the ruined temple. She learned they were there to serve the gods of the temple, and they were awestruck enough to lower their weapons and offer to take the party to see the gods, so they too could serve them. After a murmured discussion, the party decided to trust them, and started to head across the room.

They made it as far as the fire before the native perfidery was revealed. Hidden at the corner of the balcony, four men cut the ropes holding the weighted net, such that it dropped onto the party below. Awg, Chaff and Abdul el Abdul were trapped in the net, while Kwinsea rolled out of the way just in time. The native warriors advanced to stab at the trapped adventurers, and on the balcony above there appeared a line of bowman, as well as what appeared to be the chief and his henchman, plus the tribal witch-doctor.  Abdul el Abdul was able to untangle Awg from the ropes, while Chaff cast a web spell on a pair of attackers. The trio then started to crawl out from under the net, but each was stabbed and paralyzed, just like Jaz. This left Kwinsea, who first cast a lightning bolt to cut down most of the attackers on the main floor (and scorching the still cowering champion in the process).  She then whipped out her wand of fear, crying "fear our mighty magic!!" and took aim at the chief. He, the witch-doctor and one of the henchman turned and fled back out of sight. This threw the bowman into disarray, and they too pulled back from the edge in confusion. The two remaining chiefs' henchman were not perturbed, and rushed at the wand wielding wizardess. Kwinsea dodged a blow from one, and then drove both off with successive blasts from the wand.

Danger for now averted, Kwinsea started to pull her paralyzed companions down the tunnel and back to the water's edge. There she found Jaz just awaking, and the two started to load the rest of the party into the dugouts to escape across the lake. Just as they were finishing, the bone clad champion burst onto the steps, followed by five more tribesmen. Kwinsea was struck and paralyzed. The elf dropped the five natives with  sleep spell, but the bone warrior advanced to attack. He was already well battered, however, so the elf knocked him out cold with the flat of her sword and then securely tied and bound her fallen foe. With that, Jaz hauled Kwinsea and the bone warrior into the last canoe, swung around the headland to pick up Rodrigo and Corvus, and then pulled hard for the village on the mainland.  



1 bone-armored champion (captured)
1 chief's henchamn
12 native warriors

none (not permanently at least)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Far Isles Session # 55 - Up, Down, and all Around

Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 4), with henchman Corvus (Fighter 2)
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar PrettyBird and riding dog PuppyWhuppy

Due to the increasingly cool and dry air, Awg's amphibious skin needed immersion to regenerate. With Abdul el Abdul along as a guard, the calmonari retreated back to the waterfall pool for a good long soak. In the meantime, the rest of the party focused on finding a way inside the cone; one that did not involve a half-day airlift with the ebony fly. Running low on food, they elected to leave the four crossbowman at base camp and tasked them with hunting up some vittles. The rest of the party decided to investigate the few areas of woodland, scavenging nuts and berries as they went, hoping to find a hidden way into the volcanic crater. They had little luck in their exploration. Two days of wandering from copse to copse uncovered nothing. Except the creepy way the trees retreated from their campfire on the first night; they elected to camp in the open after that.

The party spent the next couple of days gathering nuts and berries while exploring the open grassland of the plateau. The sky remaining clear, they were able to check the view off the northern and eastern edge. To the north, there was nothing to see except more rugged mountains. The view to the east was more interesting however. They could see the upper course of the main river below, including the multiple cascades that poured off the mountains. All this water spilled into a flooded sunken valley nestled between the plateau and the mountains. More interesting were the obvious signs of intelligent life; the flooded valley was crisscrossed by a square grid of raised causeways, and at about a dozen intersections there rose large, steep-sided mounds. Some appeared to be topped with 'man'-made structures. Figuring they could at least get some information from he inhabitants, the party decided to loop back to base camp to pick up the mercenaries, then head back across the bridge and down into the valley. Along the way, they encountered a herd of 7-8 mastodons grazing near the edge of the plateau. Chaff, in a mischievous mood, summoned the ebony fly and proceeded to buzz the herd. This set off a a wild panic among the woolly pachyderms, and Chaff started to coral them towards the cliff edge. Without slowing down, the huge bull at the head of the herd tumbled over the edge with a bellow, which was enough to frighten the rest away from danger. The herd split in two and ran north and south along the precipice. Chaff, meanwhile, triumphantly flew out over the edge hoping to see his kill, having forgotten it was a 3000' drop to the base of the plateau. All dreams of mastodon steaks over the campfire were forgotten.

Back at base camp, the party found they were short one crossbowman. Apparently a boar hunting trip went wrong, leaving Alfred the crossbowman gored and dead.  The hirelings did manage to catch some smaller game, so the food situation was a little less dire than before. Packing up camp, the party headed for the rope bridge. Crossing it was a little more challenging this time; halfway across, a pair of huge pteranodon approached from across the valley, quite obviously with hostile intent. The two winged reptiles took turns diving at the trapped party. Thankfully, they did little harm; one of the hirelings gained a new scar, and both Corvus and Chaff had close calls. The usual barrage of pistols and lasers, bolts and arrows inflicted terrible damage on the terrible beasts, plus a command rope from Kwinsea and web from Chaff sent the two plummeting into the gorge below.

The party got to the end of the bridge, then crossed the river to the north side once more using the ring of water walking. After a few more hours of climbing, they came to the crest of the ridge and found themselves looking down on the flooded valley. Heading downhill, they picked up the end of one of the causeways and headed towards an 'inhabited' mound. As they got closer, they noticed several raised farms in the flooded water. On one, figures could be seen hoeing, weeding  and so on. Kwinsea, being the linguist of the group, called out a greeting in all her known languages. But there was neither response, nor acknowledgement. Observing the  people more closely, the party now noted while they seemed fairly well dressed, physically they were in hard shape. And a shift of the breeze brought a smell of rotting flesh; they were zombies. That made everyone nervous, so Chaff sent Pretty Bird aloft to check out the mound before they walked into a trap. Through the parrots eyes, the vivimancer could see a cluster of stone buildings atop the mound. They seemed to be of ancient construction, patched and repaired more recently. In a clearing there was a large party forming up; several formations of zombie soldiers, a palanquin similar to the one they encountered in the main river valley, and a cluster of better dressed and apparently alive people. As Chaff/Pretty Bird watched, this formation started down a steep set of stairs towards the causeway and the party.

Not sure what to expect, the party stepped off the causeway and into the shallow water as the
T'sin, Lord of Moku
palanquin and guards approached. The procession stopped when they reached the party, and the zombie bearers set the palanquin on the ground before lifting the flaps. Inside sat an older man, well dressed and with dusky skin. He raised a hand to the party and spoke. It was difficult to understand him at first, but Rodrigo soon figured out the language was vaguely related to that of the Tanaroa natives. The speaker's name was T'sin, leader of the Moku tribe. A conversation ensured, and the party learned there were four others tribes of the Q'uitchin in the valley. They all lived on separate hill/mounds, and used zombie labour to do all the hard work while the living had a life of luxury. The dead became the property of the tribal leader to be brought back for a 'second life' to serve the tribe. They had lived this way for many many years, since the days of the 'empire of the masters'. When questioned about the masters, T'sin showed a medallion he wore, depicting a bulbous inhuman face with pupil-less eyes and a sphincter-like mouth surrounded by tentacles. The tribe had had no contact with 'the masters' in many generations, but still followed their commands. One of which was to maintain the rope bridge, but taboo prevented them from actually setting foot on the plateau. When asked about the inhabitants of the volcanic cone, T'sin expressed surprise than there was anyone there.  The party also asked about any caves or tunnels that lead up to the crater, and were disappointed to hear there were none.

The Moku seemed friendly enough, and Chaff inquired if the party could stay the night and get some supplies as well. After consulting with his advisers, T'sin agreed, asking only that, if any of the party fell in their coming exploration of the crater, their bodies would become property of the tribe to be brought back for a 'second life'. That made Rodrigo nervous, with visions of daggers in the night and the party entering an eternity of zombie servitude. Convinced by the swashbucklers paranoia, the party decided to backtrack to the ridge above the river to camp for the night. As dawn approached and Chaff stood watch, the little vivimancer noted movement in the bushes below. He awoke the rest of the party, who formed up just as a trio of huge dire wolves burst out of the brush. Swords flashed, tidal force and instinct were cast, and in the end the party had one dead dire wolf while the others had fled.

Given their food situation, the party spent most of the day making dire wolf jerky, before once more crossing the rope bridge. Picking up Abdul el Abdul and Awg along the way, they once more marched to the base of the volcanic cone. Having exhausted their others options, the party decided the best way in was to take the chance running shuttle service with the ebony fly. So much of the next day was spent flying back and forth, until by mid-afternoon the whole party was on the island in the middle of the crater lake without incident. They'd chosen to arrive out of sight of both the village and the temple, hunkering down amidst tumbled stone walls and weather worn statues. Once everyone as finally in one place, the party carefully wove their way across the ruins to the cliff above the temple entrance ....



1 mastodon
2 pteranodon
1 dire wolf AKA wolf jerky

Alfred the Intrepid Crossbowman